crying baby leoThe Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is still having trouble getting over the fact that the government has decided to hold it accountable for its decades of abuse of children in its care. A number of years ago, the order of Christian Brothers attempted to prevent the Irish government from investigating the abuse. Although the order successfully prevented the naming of abusive priests, they failed to prevent the inquiries, which proceeded: the Ferns Report was released in 2005; the Ryan Report in 2009; the Murphy Report later that year; and the Cloyne Report in 2011. The Church has met each of these reports with increasing resistance, intransigence, and sanctimony, reaching the point of irrationality when the Vatican recalled their Irish nuncio because Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny condemned the Church for how it (failed to) deal with the scandal.

It’s no surprise that the Irish government has chosen to ignore the Church’s kvetching and is moving ahead with measures intended to prevent Catholic clergy from abusing children again, in spite of the Church’s growing hostility toward what it views as an insolent and ungrateful Irish government that has no right to dare criticize it. Among the preventive measures advanced by Justice Minister Alan Shatter, is a mandatory-reporting requirement for clergy where abuse of children is concerned, which would apply even to abuse revealed in the confessional. According to the Irish Independent, though, Catholic priests in that country are absolutely livid over this (WebCite cached article):

Catholic priests will defy a new law that requires them to report sexual abuse disclosed to them in the confession box — despite the threat of 10-year jail sentences.

It came after Justice Minister Alan Shatter confirmed the mandatory reporting requirement would apply to priests hearing confession.

Fr Sean McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests, which represents 800 clergymen, warned last night: “I certainly wouldn’t be willing to break the seal of confession for anyone — Alan Shatter particularly.”

It’s nice to see that Ireland’s Catholic priests care so little for the welfare of children. Way to go, guys. Really. Well done! You must be so proud of yourselves for making a stand in favor of child abusers! I am just so fucking goddamned impressed by your exemplary values!

<end sarcasm mode>

Yeah, I get that the Catholic Church views the confessional as sacred and inviolate and all the rest of that metaphysical bullshit … but the cold fact is that the perceived inviolate nature of the confessional is the rationale that bishops and other hierarchs have historically used in order to justify remaining silent even when they knew abuse had occurred. “That abusive priest told me what he did in the confessional, so I couldn’t call the police,” they would always claim in hindsight. What Shatter’s proposal does, is deprive them of this rationale. If any of them had any sense of morality or ethics, they’d understand this. They wouldn’t like abusers using the sacred rites of their own Church as a tool to protect themselves and keep abusing children. And they wouldn’t want to make themselves into the willing accomplices of those abusers. But since the Catholic Church has no sense of morality or ethics, the priests and hierarchs are all too happy to comply with abusers’ wishes and shield them — using any and all justifications they can cook up, in order to do so.

Once again, the Catholic Church acts like a collection of Mafia “goodfellas” who will never “rat” on each other. Wonderful, eh?

Photo credit: storyvillegirl, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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  • anna

    Surely any priest worth his salt would say to anyone confessing to paedophile acts, ‘You have committed a crime as well as a sin. I cannot give you absolution until you show repentance by facing the full consequences of your actions by handing yourself in to the police.’ No absolution = hell. Presumably this is a more terrifying prospect for a believer than a period in the slammer. If priests are to refuse to break the seal of the confessional then the church authorities should make it clear that no priest is to give absolution to a paedophile until after he has surrendered himself; and affirm that the full power and might of the church will be brought to bear to bring about that end.

    • Yes, this is one of the ways the R.C. Church could have dealt with the problem of “priestly pedophilia.” Seems pretty obvious that withholding absolution — as you describe — certainly could have worked. But clearly they chose never to do this. In fact, many bishops used the rationale of “the confessional” to justify not reporting pedophilia when they were told about it. Some abusive priest could admit it to his bishop in private, then both of them would paper it over by saying it was a protected “confessional” admission that can’t be disclosed. Yeah, they did a lot of that.

  • Eddie Lim

    If by confession to a priest, all crimes can be covered up, then the world can commit all the heinous crimes and terrorism and be absolved by a priest.

    The Catholic practice of confession is so archaic, so absurd in today’s world. When Catholic priests have been repeatedly exposed and the Church made to pay hundreds of millions in compensation, it is such horror. And all that money came from the faithful.

    I no longer give anything to the church. God has been defiled and betrayed by many of the people who swore life-long service to the church and to God.